Utter chaos descended in the state on Sunday as the West Bengal Board of Primary Education (WBBPE) struggled unsuccessfully to conduct the Primary Teachers’ Recruitment Examination of 45 lakh jobs applicants, a figure equal to the total population of metropolitan Kolkata.
While several students landed up at the examination centres in time only to find out that the exam venue had shifted 150 km away, five examinees fell off over-crowded trains and many were caught helplessly in traffic snarls for hours.
At many examination centres, the number of candidates was more than the number of seats available and, in some others, not a single examinee turned up because the centre was allotted for students who, even though they had bought application forms, had never submitted them!
The one-hour examination was scheduled to begin at 1 pm. But, sensing that the situation was heading beyond control, state education minister Bratya Basu, at 1 pm, announced that those reaching the examination centres even by 2 pm would also be allowed to sit for the test. Still, several applicants turned up at the district administration offices, claiming that they could not reach the examination hall even by 2 pm because of unprecedented traffic jams.
It has now forced the WBBPE to explore legalities behind arranging for a second round of examination for those who had “failed to sit for the examination for situations beyond their control”. The chaos has also sparked a veiled political blame game between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress. While the TMC blamed improper railway services for the chaos, junior railway minister Adhir Choudhury (Congress) shot back, saying the state government was playing politics with the coming panchayat polls in view.
The applicants were competing to fill up 35,000 vacancies for the posts of primary school teachers. The WBBPE claimed that the examination went off smoothly in all the districts, except for West Midnapore, Baruipur and Murshidabad, where rail disruption created utter chaos.
“Despite a request from the education department, an adequate number of trains wasn’t run and railway level-crossings were closed for endless hours in some areas, particularly in Murshidabad. We’re now exploring legal options so that we can give a second chance to candidates who failed to reach the examination venues for situations beyond their control,” Manik Bhattacharya, president, WBBPE, said.
Adhir Chowdhury hit back, saying, “Since the government is conducting the exam, it should send us a proper requisition for the exact number of trains, but they didn’t do this. Still, we ran extra trains. If there were jams at level-crossings, it was because of traffic mismanagement by the state government,” he said.